Uncertainty over new port chief
Jan 22, 2005
Mombasa port users have been kept in the dark about a permanent replacement for the position of managing director of the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA). Some port users are indicating they hope the Kenyan government will seek a new person for the job from outside Kenya, saying this has been done successfully elsewhere.
The port management company remains rudderless after the suspension of the managing director, Brown Ondego, who was taken into custody by Kenya police on suspicion of drug smuggling and for questioning about various cases of fraud.
Although Ondego was released after just one night in police cells in Nairobi, the terms of his bond require him to stay away from KPA offices. He was subsequently suspended from further duties.
The KPA’s human resource manager, Vincent Wakayanda has been appointed to caretake the office of the managing director, but transport minister John Michuki clarified this week that Ondego had not been replaced even in an acting capacity. It appears that Wakayanda’s job is merely to answer phone calls.
Other senior port officials arrested along with Ondego are the Mombasa harbourmaster, Captain Twalif Khamis, Mombasa Container Terminal manager Charles Mgeta and Verification Officer Jeriman Akinda. Police said that they wanted the four in custody to ‘continue their enquiries’ into the recent smuggling of a consignment of cocaine through the port, as well as several matters relating to fraud.
Only Brown Ondego has been released, reportedly following pressure from government.
The other matters under investigation include a number of tugboats sold at giveaway prices to a Dutch businessman who subsequently sold them at market-related prices to a Dubai company, and a case involving the inflation of prices paid for computers from South Africa, which were sponsored by the Chinese government. A third enquiry involves a reported shortfall in the KPA’s medical aid scheme.
Since then there have been reports that Ondego and his arrested managers could be charged with negligence and abuse of office, whatever that may mean. A police spokesperson, Mwangi Kibunja told the East African Standard that the four were being held responsible for negligence “because what they did or failed to do was a big disservice to the security of the country.”
He said the port officials had to be held liable because the drugs passed through the port before being taken over by the Kenya Revenue Authority.
Who would want this job?
In a related incident, the NGO Transparency International (TI) revealed that it had informed the KPA of massive corruption within the port organisation but had been largely ignored. TI reported having witnessed number of cases of bribery within the port of Mombasa and lists Kenya as one of the more corrupt countries in Africa.